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September 16, 2013

Comments

Just want to add, in addition to Hartmut's comment slipped in as a write this, regarding Slart's cite about gun sales soaring as an unintended consequence of post-Newtown massacre efforts to tighten gun control measures, that I didn't take part in that particular national psychosis, and I assume Slart didn't either, having been sufficiently and responsibly armed beforehand, though I get the point about complications.

The article quotes someone or other declaring that Obama is the best gun salesman going. Well, I suppose in that world of cracked glibness, then a sane policy from the White House would be for a President to declare that the White House grounds are a gun-full zone (tax deductions for gun purchases would be forthcoming) and to hand out weapons and free ammo at the White House Easter Egg Hunt as a canny way of indulging the psychosis and perhaps reverse mesmerizing the populace into trancing zombie-like to the nearest Armory and relinquishing their arms.

It might have been refreshingly .... something ... if just one gun manufacturer had announced that gosh, we're going to declare at least a moratorium on sales of certain weaponry -- or all -- because maybe the country is full-up with armaments -- but they didn't and damned if I can't think why.

It occurs to me that a similar psychosis may have come over the parents of the Newtown elementary school victims as they rushed into bed in the weeks after the murders to become pregnant and increase the national birthrate, which some glib observers have condemned as inadequate for the needs of industry and the economy.

This fertile sex romp following mass murders may hold the key to yet another national policy, should we wish to indulge the perversity of human nature.

Instead of spiking the birthrate during blackouts because of inadequate, but canny, funding for the national power infrastructure, we could send shooters into elementary schools and let the lemming love begin.

This policy of course would be adopted at the local level only to enable experimentation and keep overhead low.

I will admit that after the Oklahoma City bombings and despite the fact that a friend lost a husband (federal employee, so really the nation lost 3/5ths of a person) that I unaccountably ran out and requisitioned a couple of freight cars of fertilizer for secret storage and I've been releasing it bit by bit from the bottom of my pantleg onto my lawn.

Too, after Mayor Bloomberg banned the 64 ouncers, something came over me and warehoused on ice a few thousand 64 ounce-soft drink servings and I've been chugging them since. I've gained 78 pounds and triggered a raging case of diabetes, but I feel good about the whole thing, as I believe many of the more full-figured Founders of our Nation would too.

I recall in health insurance debates being assured that health insurance, but especially government-supplied health insurance, engenders a mysterious over-consumption of healthcare, which I laughed off, but sure enough, after securing my own insurance after some months of terror at my age of doing without, over the past year, I've had seven tonsillectomies, not quite a dozen colonoscopies, and more melanoma scans than Woody Allen because, well, I can't explain, but the upshot is that I'm now banned from every medical clinic and office in the tri-state area, like THAT is going to stop me from buying another gun.

I now see that if I lose or can't afford my health insurance, and if Obamacare is eradicated as the pestilence it is said to be, my carefree consumption of healthcare will drop to virtually zero and the economy and freedom will rocket ahead into never-seen stratospheric heights, although what that has to do with preventing me from rushing out and purchasing some big honking military-style weaponry escapes me, but maybe you can all think of a reason for that happening.

And, incidentally, apparently one provision of Obamacare is that one's personal physician MUST ask about their patients' gun habits. Some are outraged over this and are proposing bans on the practice at the State level, but I caution, given the complicated psychology which I believe I share with, well, all of you, that were I a doctor, such a ban would merely cause me to unaccountably blurt out questions about my patients' gun joneses repeatedly during their exams, maybe as a way of heading off their repeated demands for painful, invasive procedures because they read in the small print of their insurance policies that they were covered for such, and dammit, they are paying for it, so go for it.

Had I been a lyncher of black folks back in the day, and busybodies had even so much as frowned in my direction over these practices, I expect I would have started breeding hanging trees on plantations for just that purpose and started a chain of hemp/rope outlets .... I'd call them Noose Caboose, or maybe Gag and Go ... because if there is one thing that gets my dander up it's when someone else tells I can't do or have something.

Watch me.

Let me clue yall in on how to get me to cease and desist some type of disapproved behavior: tell me to continue doing it.

That'll stoke my suspicion and paranoia and off I'll run in the opposite, but intended direction, salivating all the way.

YMMV, although apparently YMdoesn'tV, given the human psychology we share.

Just some further longwinded thoughts from here at Pavlov's little corner of the world.


No college rejects people based on color.

Rarely openly anymore because the courts will not allow it. Some still get away with a lot by presenting it as something else than race. And it is iirc less than a decade ago that one of the infamous Kristian(TM) academies (Liberty or Oral Roberts iirc) got into trouble about their 'no interracial dating' policy. And just a few days ago there was that college sorority that wanted to let in its first black member but got overruled by the alumni. It's very laudable though that it was the active members that made that public because they were so disgusted about it.

"do you suppose i sit in my garage and shout angrily at my socket set when it fails to animate itself and fix the wheelbarrow ?"

Elvis would have shot both the socket set and the wheelbarrow.

Well, if bobbyp or some other fine soul would like to go for it, send it to libjpn at my gmail digs and I'll put it up. I'll pass on it myself, cause I think that the poster (if it were me) would have an obligation to respond and where I live basically makes it as if a tentacled Martian were to come and give advice on your golf swing.

I'm not sure why, but McT's discussion of single mothers had me remember this Atlantic article about the Craigslist killers, who preyed upon unemployed white working class men.

I was initially drawn to the story of the Beasley murders because I thought it would illuminate the isolation and vulnerability of so many working-class men, who have been pushed by the faltering economy from one way of life—a nine-to-five job, a wife, children—into another, far more precarious one: unemployed or underemployed, single or divorced, crashing on relatives’ spare beds or in the backseats of cars. At what other moment in history would it have been plausible for a serial killer to identify middle-aged white men as his most vulnerable targets?

But what I discovered in the course of my reporting was something quite different. As traditional family structures are falling apart for working-class men, many of them are forging new kinds of relationships: two old high-school friends who chat so many times a day that they need to buy themselves walkie-talkies; a father who texts his almost-grown sons as he goes to bed at night and as he wakes up in the morning.

Christians often talk about a “God-shaped hole,” a need inside us that can be filled only by faith. But perhaps we share a “family-shaped hole.” When the old structures recede for men, they find ways to replace them with alternative attachments, bonds with one or two people that offer the warmth and intimacy typically provided by a wife or significant other. If anything, these improvised families can prove more intense because they are formed under duress and, lacking a conventional domestic routine or a recognized status, they must be constantly tended and reinforced.

I realize that the story is about unemployed white men, but I quote that, I think, because I'm not sure how McT can be so certain what life is like for single mothers or for black men. I'm not trying to pick a fight, but I just don't understand the assuredness that one makes claims about how people feel about their children and how one raises them.

At any rate, I understand that you are busy and might not be able to respond, but I don't see racism as a 'single' entity, but something that has a number of facets and manifestations. To claim that it is a single entity that concerns people on the 'Left' (wherever that may be) may make for good flambé, but I don't think does much for discussion.

McTx: I don't view voter ID as racist EVEN IF the intent is to discourage, at the periphery, those who lack sufficient motivation to get an ID card and even if the majority of that minority at the periphery are Hispanic or black (and, I'm reasonably confident that the lazy, unmotivated periphery has plenty of whites, so I'm just not that moved). Why? Because that law applies the same to everyone. Getting an ID is no big deal.

IF getting an ID was made relatively simple, and places where one could get one were a) readily available to everyone (including those who don't have a car), b) were open outside normal business hours, abnd c) provided reasonably fast service -- then yes, it would be no big deal. But in an awful lot of the places which have instituted those requirements, that simply isn't the case.

I think you could successfully make a case that the intent is to disadvantage the poor, regardless of race, rather than racism. I think you would be flat wrong in the vast majority of cases, but it would certainly be possible.

But to argue that the law has any basis in a reality of illegal voters is nonsense. Has anyone actually found, even in Texas and other places with large numbers of illegal aliens, that lots of them actually are trying to (or succeeding in) voting illegally? Is there any actual data?

who here will be surprised if challenging a voter's ID turns out to be something that happens to minorities more than it does to whites ?

Short of a systemic, monied, top-down effort to sway an election, there's no reason to think voter fraud is a significant problem with the registration requirements already in place. What's the incentive? And given a systemic, monied, top-down effort, would ID requirements be that hard to overcome?

With that, racism may or may not be a motivation for some number of the people pushing for voter IDs. But it's not an all-or-nothing question, since we're talking about a number of people not sharing one mind. There's also a difference between what you might call systemic racism and personal racism.

The system - be it the election system, the court system, the eductional system or what have you - can be racist in its results without everyone or even a significant number of the people involved being racist, themselves. The problem I see, regardless of whether or not people are personally racist, is when it becomes apparent that there are racist outcomes in some system or institution, but that there is, none the less, resistance to doing anything about it.

The denial of racism can be an impersonal form of racism, be it manifest in resistance to change or even, simply, passivity in the face of an apparent wrong.

Some other aspects of the single black mother thing.

Personally, I thought that (for example) Bill Cosby's famous pound cake speech made more than a few good points.

Also personally, I don't think I, as an American white man, have any standing to make a similar speech.

There is an almost endless parade of reasons why American blacks are in dire straights, financially socially and otherwise. Most of those are rooted in the unique history of blacks in the US. And it's a history that didn't magically end with the passage of civil rights legislation in the 60's.

My strong conviction is that black Americans need to take their own communities and their own lives in their own hands, and make things happen for themselves.

One reason I feel that way is because the enormity of what black Americans lived with for centuries is so great that there basically isn't anything the rest of us can do to make it right. It's too big.

Another reason is that the rest of us are not a reliable source of good will toward the black community. We are largely either not that interested in helping out, or are interested for our own reasons.

Plus, whatever hand up black folks get is generally accompanied by an equal portion of resentment and anger that they haven't quit complaining and gotten their sh*t together yet.

So, if black folks put themselves in the position of waiting for the rest of us to improve their lot, they are unlikely to find any kind of satisfaction. The bulk of the official legal impediments to their progress and well-being have been removed (as of now, anyway), that's probably as good as it is going to get.

Any further justice is not going to be forthcoming. The best possible way forward, IMO, is to accept that and move on.

But that doesn't mean that no justice is deserved. The least the rest of us can do is recognize that.

As far as racism today being exceptional, or something that's all in the past, I note that I recently had to ask some family members to stop sending me long missives about how the blacks should be grateful for slavery because it let them all hear about Jesus.

The past isn't even the past. It continues to inform and affect the present, and will continue to do so, probably as long as this nation exists.

You can't go back and change it, but the most basic sense of fairness demands that we recognize it for what it was, and for how it still affects us now.

Russell,

Your Coates link is one I especially wanted McKinney to read and comment on. The data shows that higher rates of black single parent (aka female head of household) family structure is the historical norm, and that the 'explosion' of this terrible thing since the 60's is prevalent across racial categories. Where is the condemnation of absent white fathers? Is Bill O'Reilly going to do a cheesecake speech?

There is, as Coates clearly avers, something bigger going on here.

In the same article Coates writes, "My expectation is that racism and white supremacy will win--and take this country down with it." Kinda' discouraging, what?

My "wild eyed lefty" response to this is to urge us to do something, and give my political backing to public policies that I believe will work to address such issues. It's an essential part of what makes (some) libruls tick. But I might try going out and purchasing a gun (I'm thinking a single shot 20ga like I used to own) and try yelling at it. What could it hurt?

Otherwise, well put as usual.

I don't view voter ID as racist EVEN IF the intent is to discourage, at the periphery, those who lack sufficient motivation to get an ID card

IMO the intent is to discourage folks who don't vote (R).

If Latvian bagel-makers named Stan reliably voted (D) and were a large enough demographic to make a difference electorally, they'd find a way to make it hard for Latvian bagel-makers named Stan to vote.

There probably are some folks for whom making it hard for blacks, students, and poor people to vote is an unalloyed good on its own terms, but that's just lagniappe.

The T-NC link is excellent. Thanks.

The voter suppression laws are invented to keep likely Democrats from voting. Targeting African Americans is a means to that end. Some of the Republican politicians pushing the voter suppression laws might be motivated by racism, but the primary goal is to undermine the democratic process in swing states and districts to the advantage of the party that can't depend on winning on its own merits due to a lack of merits.

Did anyone notice what the sociopaths in the House did today?

What culpability would you bear, personally, if your preferred levels of firearms control kept black people from protecting themselves against lynch mobs?

Slarti, correct me if I'm wrong: back when lynching was a popular American pastime, American gun laws were more to YOUR liking than to mine. Are you suggesting here that some significant number of black people "stood their ground", with guns, against racist yahoo would-be lynchers?

While we're asking questions: how many responsible WHITE gun owners used their 2nd-Amendment right to keep and bear arms to protect their black fellow-citizens from racist yahoo would-be lynchers?

Are you really suggesting that I should wish Treyvon Martin had been packing heat? Are you seriously suggesting I should wish black people had fought for their basic civil rights with fncking guns? Are you insane, or what?

--TP

"Also personally, I don't think I, as an American white man, have any standing to make a similar speech."

This is why racism will continue, if Coates worst fear is realized. The idea that an "American white man" has no standing to engage in this discussion, on any point, is pretty insulting to American white men; who are fair game for any and all criticism in all public and private forums.

I would suggest that change comes from an open two way dialogue, which there is little of today.

I don't think he meant that white men have no standing to make any points about racism. I think he meant that white men lacked standing to make those particular remarks.

I'm not sure I agree with him about that, but I think that is what he meant.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/

Neither Slart nor MckT are responsible for this either, but quick, ban and confiscate all firearms because we, all of us, are in the middle of a hurricane of crazy, motherf*cking sh*t.

America has outgunned itself.

Once again, these guys shot the wrong people, each other. If they'd have hunted down Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent, among others, and put bullets in their f*cking anti-American brainpans, the country would be two dead f*cks further on the road to sanity.

Anyone want to surmise that these were Democrats?

I'd say there's a fair bit of space between *making a similar speech* and *engaging in the discussion, on any point*. It appears russell is engaging in the discussion on this very thread, despite not making a speech similar to Bill Cosby's.

I don't think russell's reluctance, as a white man, to speak as openly and authoritatively on issues specific to black Americans as would a black American is what's preventing the end of racism.

back when lynching was a popular American pastime, American gun laws were more to YOUR liking than to mine

I suggest that you go investigate the history of gun control, and who early proponents of it were, rather than...whatever it is that you're attempting to do, here.

Are you insane, or what?

I'm the one advocating for more sanity. For more coherent, sensible arguments.

American white men; who are fair game for any and all criticism in all public and private forums.

Yep. The Bell Curve was actually written by a black guy, and Andrew Sullivan really doesn't have a public forum in a major American media outlet.

The well of white male self pity is bottomless, and they'll be the first to tell you so.

If you don't believe racism is a big problem, read http://www.salon.com/2011/07/05/unemployment_scandal/>this and get back to me. Thanks.

The idea that an "American white man" has no standing to engage in this discussion, on any point, is pretty insulting to American white men; who are fair game for any and all criticism in all public and private forums.

My experience engaging in discussion of social and political issues on public and private fora over the last ten-plus years has driven home to me the reality that everybody on god's green earth is fair game for any and all criticism.

Nothing special about American white men.

I don't think he meant that white men have no standing to make any points about racism. I think he meant that white men lacked standing to make those particular remarks.

That is fairly close to what I meant.

To make it perhaps more specific and perhaps clearer, I meant that *I*, as an American white man, don't feel that *I*, as an American white man, have any such standing.

And oddly enough, that's exactly what I said.

In general, I do my best to not speak for others. If you, Marty, want to engage in Cosby-esque critiques of the black community, I will not stand in your way, nor in fact could I do so were I so inclined.

Which I am not.

Live it up.

I don't think russell's reluctance, as a white man, to speak as openly and authoritatively on issues specific to black Americans as would a black American is what's preventing the end of racism.

Yes, I also somehow doubt that my reluctance to pile on to Cosby's observations about the black community is perpetuating racism.

My feeling is that I, as am American white man, have my hands full dealing with my own sh*t. I'm not seeing that black Americans need my help in dealing with theirs.

I seriously doubt they need me to bring their issues to their attention. They live with them.

My experience engaging in discussion of social and political issues on public and private fora over the last ten-plus years has driven home to me the reality that everybody on god's green earth is fair game for any and all criticism.

Actually, I think I need to retract this.

Latvian bagel-makers named Stan have not, to my knowledge, been subject to criticism in public and private fora.

So, some folks do appear to be exempt.

My feeling is that I, as am American white man, have my hands full dealing with my own sh*t. I'm not seeing that black Americans need my help in dealing with theirs.

I seriously doubt they need me to bring their issues to their attention. They live with them.

I would just like to express my general agreement with russell on this point, as well as general support and admiration for what he has had to say on this topic in this thread.

Also, an overall appreciation for the myriad thoughtful points he has made in my eyeshot, here and elsewhere, on most topics he has chosen to address. Even when we disagree on a point, I still can appreciate where he's coming from in making it. I can't make this not sound obsequious or fawning, so I am just going to leave it there.

But back to this point: my take on this is that it is in some ways similar the plight of other people elsewhere in the world. You can help people out, give them a hand, but what you absolutely cannot do is solve their problems for them, unless you're asked specifically to. People's problems, individually and in groups, just don't lend themselves to formulaic solutions. It's not that they're unsolvable; some problems you can look at and see what's needed right away. But part of what's needed (a very large part, I say) is change on the part of the person or people whose problem it is. And that change, I say, has to come from within.

Thus: you can't hand equality to American black people. You can't change their culture and get rid of the things that don't work. Pointing out what doesn't work doesn't really even help all that much, particularly if the person doing the pointing doesn't belong to the group that owns the problems. You can't inflict change on another culture. There are things you can do to not aggravate the problems, but there's a limit to what you can do to help solve them.

It's a hypothesis, sure, but it's a hypothesis that we've gathered all too much evidence to support. Doesn't stop us from trying again, though. What Iraq/Egypt/Syria really needs is more democracy; let's give it to them.

I don't claim this as some kind of profound TRVTH; it's just something that looks right to me. I also don't claim it's any sort of original observation, but it is (swiping a line from Monty Python) my own.

I think this is all just another way of saying what russell said, but I felt an irresistable urge to restate what he said less elegantly.

I'm an oddball, for sure.

I would suggest that change comes from an open two way dialogue

Less snottily (from me, i.e., on my part):

I think what Marty has said here is correct.

It is, however, my experience that when people like me - white American middle class people, with college educations and good white collar jobs, and who live in nice safe quiet suburban neighborhoods - when people like me make comments like Cosby's, it's rarely in the spirit of an open two-way dialogue.

"Two-way" is a funny thing, you can't just point your finger at the other party and tell them to get their act together. You have to also be open hearing and receiving what is said in return.

Even if that makes you fair game for any and all criticism in private and public fora.

Criticisms often have merit, even if not expressed in ways that are congenial to us.

Your point was a good one. Apologies for the tone of my initial reply.

What Slart said about what Russell said.

That Slart enables Russell more than makes up for Slart enabling all of the gun violence across this great country of ours. ;)

Thank God for oddballs, though that is getting dangerously close to my turf.

I don't know how it is that Latvian bagel-makers named Stan have escaped our critical attention all these years at OBWI, but then that's what we get for banning DaveC, who I believe has been harboring bannable observations about the Stans for some time.

Thus: you can't hand equality to American black people. You can't change their culture and get rid of the things that don't work. Pointing out what doesn't work doesn't really even help all that much, particularly if the person doing the pointing doesn't belong to the group that owns the problems. You can't inflict change on another culture. There are things you can do to not aggravate the problems, but there's a limit to what you can do to help solve them.

I don't agree for several reasons. First, we--the country, meaning non-blacks--are invited from time to time by black leaders to have "an honest conversation" on race. We can debate what the subtext of 'honest conversation' is when the question is posed in that manner, but the invitation is made and made not infrequently. There is nothing wrong with accepting an invitation and being honest, remembering that honest answers are not the same as correct answers.

Second, the traditional black leadership explicitly makes their agenda a part of the national debate. Fine, let's debate. Part of equality is being called out, as an equal, when you are wrong.

Third, whatever it is we are doing, and have been doing for the black community, does not seem to be working all that well. Or even at all, for those who remain uneducated and/or unemployed/underemployed. When I say "whatever we are doing", I am speaking of local, state and national efforts to address poverty, etc. I'm perfectly fine addressing poverty. I am even more fine with focusing on specific communities.

But, when the problem has been as persistent and intractable as this seemingly is, particularly when our society/economy is becoming more complex, more knowledge based, it is time, is it not, to not just be *honest* but to ask hard questions and, when the emperor has no clothes, to say so.

The emperor in this case is the received, conventional, politically correct wisdom on addressing poverty and racial issues.

It is not working. We see that everyday. More money for better pay for teachers isn't going to fix that. Compare DC spending per student to South Dakota and then compare outcomes.

Here are some simple rules in life that will promote a decent shot at life: stay in school and apply yourself; do not have children until you can care for and afford them; obey the law; live within your means.

Why aren't these values being hammered home every freaking day, in every freaking way, to children starting at age 7?

I have family members who have failed to follow one or more of the above rules. They are white. Their lives have not been particularly happy. It isn't my fault or BP's or anyone else's that these people didn't make more for themselves because, unlike much of those born into single parent (almost invariably single mother) homes, they had the guidance and examples needed to figure things out.

The great disservice the traditional black and other demographically selected leaders are doing is failing to address the true root causes of poverty: instability, ignorance, education.

The great disservice the rest of us do is our silence, or worse, endorsement of the current, prevailing but failing wisdom.

Now, back to work. Sorry.

I'd like to comment about CharlesWT's accurate observation way upthread about the mass migration of Americans from the upper 48 to Texas and Florida.

In the first case, folks are attracted to Texas' regime of frequent dispatch of death row inmates and the opportunity to work for minimum wage and without health insurance.

In the second, few people know about the Federal Government's pilot project in Florida to demonstrate the remarkable efficiency with which the latter can send tens of millions of Social Security and Medicare payments all the way down there annually while maintaining a high kvetch-to-payment ratio and thus a taxpayer-subsidized marketing strategy for the fat man in Palm Beach and the cold-callers in Boca Raton.

These are the reasons why both states have panhandles.

we--the country, meaning non-blacks--are invited from time to time by black leaders to have "an honest conversation" on race

Honestly, I always internally interpret that to mean: "it's time for you Republicans to admit that you're racist".

But taking it at face value, a debate on race doesn't overtly invite whites to instruct blacks on solving their problems. I look at it, instead, as an opportunity to discuss ways in which everyone can stop doing things that actively disempower black people. Discrimination, I mean.

To the extent that this conversation devolves into "black people are poor and our solution to that is just to give them money", I tend to lose interest. I tend to want to achieve equality of opportunity.

So: I disagree that this invitation to discuss issues relating to race constitutes a request for help, or even a request for a lecture about what black people are doing wrong. It is, instead, a request to discuss how white and black people treat each other.

I could be way off base, here, and probably am.

These are the reasons why both states have panhandles

Some targeted exercise can help get rid of those pesky panhandles.

"Here are some simple rules in life that will promote a decent shot at life: stay in school and apply yourself; do not have children until you can care for and afford them; obey the law; live within your means."

These rules have worked less and less well for anyone over the last three decades.

Individuals can cause their own failure. Widespread failure doesn't indicate that lots of individuals are individually failing; it indicates something seriously wrong with the larger systems and processes.

One of the root causes of poverty in America now is the fantasy that tax cuts for the wealthy combined with cuts in government spending will have miraculous benefits for anyone except the wealthy person who doesn't perceive a personal need for the government spending. That myth inflicts poverty on people who are doing the right thing.

The emperor in this case is the received, conventional, politically correct wisdom on addressing poverty and racial issues.

What conventional wisdom is that? Could you state it for me? The problem I see here is this quickly devolves into a discussion about how the plight of black americans is really all their fault, and if they would just 'suck it up' and tie their ties properly all would be well. To my way of thinking, that is the prevailing so-called "wisdom". I dare say it is way more commonplace than whatever unstated 'wisdom' you believe is out there.

To the extent that this conversation devolves into "black people are poor and our solution to that is just to give them money" I tend to lose interest.

I find this odd. Can you cite an example of what this mythical other party advocates that you find is just "giving black people money"? Do you also tune out when policies are discussed that just give somebody, anybody money?

Why aren't these values being hammered home every freaking day, in every freaking way, to children starting at age 7?

There is a certain circularity to this, since today's 7-year-olds not receiving the suggested hammering may not be inclined to hammer those values home to their future 7-year-olds.

That said, if you don't think there are people in the black community doing their damndest to hammer those values home each and every day to anyone who will listen, you're mistaken.

But it's not an easy thing we're talking about here, if I can point out the obvious.

I think suburbanization in the 50's did a lot to set back black Americans, relative to a better potential course that may have been followed, due to a number of policies that reshaped the roadway and housing infrastructures. These policies were not intended to retard black-equality gains AFAICT, but they still did, IMO.

I've heard the "throwing money at it solves nothing" argument many times. Of course starving money out of a situation invariably makes it worse. And many of those who do not wish to throw money at a problem which isn't directly theirs do wish to have money thrown at problems which are theirs.

So that's an argument that I see as essentially a sophistry. On the other hand, I do think consideration should be given to exactly HOW money is spent on a situation, some programs being more effective than others.

But I don't feel inclined to micro-manage how Food Stamp funds are allocated when the very politicians who vote to cut the funds are demanding tax dollars for themselves and the special interests in their districts and don't want accountability for that money.

I don't see this as necessarily racist, although a racist would support the vote to gut Food Stamps while subsidizing white politicians and red states.

Racism has always been handy for the racist. As racism became less socially acceptable some other rationalization was needed to justify the same misuse of power.

"i think it has more to do with a sense that we're not quite as separate from each other as we might like to think."

It's called empathy. Conservatives hate it and make fun of it because they don't have functioning souls.

I can't tell if that's a direct swipe at conservatives or a swipe at liberals by way of parody.

I've heard the "throwing money at it solves nothing" argument many times

For what it's worth, that's not what I said. But let me rephrase: throwing money at poverty treats the symptoms. It's like treating cancer with pain meds. The pain meds are important, but they don't cure the disease.

Just to refresh, this is what I said:

To the extent that this conversation devolves into "black people are poor and our solution to that is just to give them money", I tend to lose interest.

Caricaturing the above statement as Slart thinks that we shouldn't give poor people any money, if anyone is doing that, is an error.

That's about all I have to say on this topic. It's not really a crucial component of any of my previous comments, but I think some clarification was needed.

Compare DC spending per student to South Dakota and then compare outcomes.

Not to overly belabor this, because a really useful discussion of the issues here is probably not something that is going to happen on a blog.

But, briefly:

I don't disagree that simply throwing money at problems is not a good way to solve them.

But there are lots of ways that life is different in South Dakota and Washington DC.

Comparing the two may not actually be that useful.

People who construct buildings in DC must be far less efficient than those who do so in SD, following the same logic, if one compares the respective costs of housing or office space in those places.

(I guess I could throw the thread back off course by suggesting a look at rates of gun ownership versus violent crime in those two places, which I'm sure proves we should all be packing. But I kid, I kid... because I love.)

For what it's worth, that's not what I said. But let me rephrase: throwing money at poverty treats the symptoms.

And I shall ask you again..what public policies, real or proposed are you talking about? Who, specifically, advocates "just giving black people money"?

Does "throwing money" at other problems, just "treat the symptoms"? Is there something about poverty, black or otherwise, that makes this problem unique as opposed to all the other problems we throw money at?

Thanks.

Comparing the two may not actually be that useful.

Says the master of understatement.

Since proposals to cut food stamp expenditures were brought up, here is a link with some facts and an example of how right-wing media distorts the facts, via anecdote:

http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/09/18/hannity-omits-the-food-stamp-facts-most-recipie/189991

By the way, perhaps you've heard of the surfer dude on food stamps purchasing lobster for lunch.

FOXNews, as an outreach for their "We Report/You Decide" credo have sent video of surfer dude reporting his lifestyle to Congressional Reps, Senators, and their staff members.

Objective media.

I'd like to place a finer focus as well on the deliberate "structural" (politeese for choosing who gets to lose) changes made at the highest levels of government (bipartisan, to my shame), "think tanks" (named such because they sit around asking each other "do you think anyone will want to kill us for advocating across the board wage and benefit cuts) and in corporate board rooms over the past few decades to "meet the challenges of global competitiveness" and whatever other boilerplate issues forth from these institutions.

Thus layoffs, downsizing, corporate benefit cuts, you know the drill.

One very intended (but claimed as unintended) result we see recently are demands to increase the minimum wage, specifically among the fast food service industry. I noted recently an economist explaining that these demands are being fueled by the fact that more minimum wage workers are college educated and can't find better-paying work despite the fact that they majored in more industry-friendly topics while passing up the black studies major.

And since FOX, much to Chuck Todd's displeasure (not really, his displeasure is stoked only by liberal demands on his profession) and via charming anecdote about a single surfer diddling Gidgit down at the local welfare office has "positioned" itself as a player in influencing and determining what I believe are ultimately murderous policies, let me do my little part via anecdote to relate a little story.

My mother has Alzheimer's and is recovering from cancer. Eight weeks ago she fell and broke her hip. She is now at the stage of her disease wherein she requires another person in the bathroom with her to accomplish with a great gnashing of her remaining teeth what is required in that room.

My brother handles this despite lacking the temperament for such care (long story and history, best passed over here), but I've been traveling home often (six out of the past 8 weeks) to help as much as possible.

Because of the constant attention my mother requires, she, via my sister the power of attorney, can thankfully and additionally afford for now as much round-the-clock in home care as is required. You can imagine the expense, but we know she wants to remain in her house and if you want to see a screaming, kicking, biting 3-year-old lunatic (this alternates with a dignified, kind personality, but so goes the disease) do her thing, then someone else can remove her to a nursing facility, not me, and not my brothers and sisters.

Anywho, one of the very fine, non-complaining, patient caregivers, who makes roughly $9.50-$10.50 an hour and is nearing but not at retirement age, has a father who also suffers from Alzheimer's and she has had to hire the same in-home care agency SHE works for to care for her father (cost: roughly $22 an hour.)

I asked her why she doesn't accept the paying job of caring for her Dad, and she replied that she takes care of him the rest of the time and the mental stability of a caregiver can only stretch so far.

She additionally divulged that she has been on public assistance, including food stamps, from time to time.

She doesn't surf.

And Eric Cantor and all of the little Cantors should be supplied additional videos by FOX News of these facts, but they aren't, so they may all go f*ck themselves in the mouth at gunpoint.

Now, it's true that no one is "forced" to work at low wage jobs.

And that's the beauty of it. Deliberate structural changes have been made in the economy to lower the wage and benefit structure in this country by folks who wish to remain anonymous, even though all of their names can be found on the brass name-plates on hand-carved doors of our most powerful institutions.

Oh, and lobster dude .... once you've accepted those cash kickbacks for your FOX and Republican celebrity, make sure you report them to the IRS and social services.

Before I get too exercised at "throwing money at problems" (even though I agree that it is not, in itself, a solution), I have something else I would like to deal with. Throwing money at things which are not problems.

Agriculture subsidies come to mind, although they are notthe only example. Granted, there may have been a problem there half a century or more ago (i.e. further back than my memory runs). But there certainly hasn't been a problem recently. Especialy for the farms that get most of the subsidies.

i too, would like to see answers to bobbyp's 11:15 .

until someone answers them, nobody should use the phrase "throwing money" here. define your terms, people!

When folks complain about throwing money, I think what they really mean is "throwing other people's money."

Yes, other people's money is wasted, depending on your point of view, but I know folks, nice people, who throw money all the time at problems, for example:

Problem: how do get from point A to Point B five miles away.

Solution: The new $100,000 Porsche, Series V-Rathole

Or, Problem: It's hot out. How do I stay refreshed without troubling myself with the crowds at the CLUB, despite my $20,000 annual membership fee:

Solution: The in-ground whopping swimming pool in the backyard.

I've no problem with that, barring simultaneous complaints from the same folks about the efficacy of cutting food stamps from the $4.72 daily allowance to $4.11, but it only look likes the money was gently and scrupulous handed over between gentleman.

There was big windup and the money was hurled at major league velocity.


....a really useful discussion of the issues here is probably not something that is going to happen on a blog.

Well, damn the bad luck! :)

Well, damn the bad luck! :)

LOL

I guess my point there was more that they were more or less too complex, and required a deeper level of analysis, than would readily fit into the relatively short and informal style of blog posts.

What my point definitely was NOT was that the issues should not be discussed, here or elsewhere.

In the vein of collegial white/black conversations, House Republicans dig up Rosa Parks to mansplain to all of us why she should be denied medical insurance for her pre-existing conditions.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/gop-rep-obamacare-defunders-are-following-example-of-rosa-parks-mlk

One of the planks (as in things the rest of us will be forced to walk) in the Republican counter-non-proposal to replace Obamacare is that those with non-continuous health insurance will NOT be guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, among other ludricous and sadistic bullet points.

Well, Rosa Parks' corpse is available to all of us for ventriloquistic demagoguery in the service of murder, so I hereby put my hand up the back of her shirt, bestill my lips, and have her declare that gunshot wounds to vermin Republican flesh are included under pre-existing conditions under their plan.

White/black conversation now completed.

Very few here, if any, (I can't remember, are Brett and/or Charles WT Ron Paul fans, in addition to sharing his libertarian bent?) are Ron Paul aficionados, but sometimes the pleading against stricter gun control laws reminds of Paul intellectually pretzeling himself into stating that "heroin and prostitution" are exercises in liberty and should be legalized, as a vain attempt to be intellectually and absolutely consistent, as some of the small minds like Paul's and Ayn Rand's will.

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/quote-of-the-gop-debate-rep-ron-paul-defends-heroin-as-an-exercise-of-liberty/

If I wanted to, I could claim that mass murder from the barrel of a gun is likewise an exercise in liberty, but I don't want to.

More likely, heroin use and prostitution should be legalized, while keeping place and enlarging programs to remediate such behavior, because the societal costs of not doing so are larger that those of doing so.

Perhaps, gun control is a similarly useless and way-to-expensive endeavor as well, but after two guys with concealed gun permits gun each other down over a traffic argument, I don't think my view can f*ck up things any more than they already have been by the loosening of gun restrictions in many locales.

Are rich people really sociopaths? Is being rich a moral failing of unmitigated proportions? What is this obsession of rich folk for sun tans and playing golf? Is there no end to the public policies we continue to adopt that throw money at the problem of being rich? Are we not just treating a symptom and not the underlying disease?

In that vein, bp, or rather in a less sociopathic capillary, here's a successful guy who gets it.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/09/15/panera-bread-ceo-to-live-off-food-stamps-for-one-week-and-hes-live-blogging-it/

The problem is not that the very rich are born sociopaths, and I speak generally, but that the very rich, and I include rich liberals (believe me, Barbara Streisand will NOT like my plan for taxes), have so segregated themselves physically from the rest of America and by dint of the mind-boggling degree of wealth they have accumulated because of deliberate policy decisions over the past 35 years.

However, this ...."Is there no end to the public policies we continue to adopt that throw money at the problem of being rich?" is a brilliant piece, tasty piece of bait, in fact I think its lobster and should be sold in restaurants for a roughly 800% markup.

Another problem is that an entire Ponzi scheme subculture of worshiping wealth, with in-place madrassas of Ayn Rand (she'd have had Adam Smith executed for his theory of Moral Sentiments) instructional gospel and ideology have infested our politics. I used to have to read Forbes Magazine to admire how the other (half? you kid) 1% live and invest, and now most of the folks elected to Congress, mostly but not completely of one persuasion, suck at this rich vein and on behalf of this incredible wealth imbalance.

Paul Ryan. The man has not started a business, has not invented anything useful or remunerative, has not soiled his hands at productive labor, but by the time he retires from Congress and his political career, he will have accumulated the enormous wealth of a Boca Raton late night TV money infomercial evangelist.

Killer blue eyes. Killer Smile.

Killer.

To add to bobbyp brilliantly-phrased question, and in the vein of Marty's seeking a dialogue, and I refer to the very right radical wing now infesting the House of Representatives, not the conservatives here:

"This is why the wealth disparity will continue, if Coates worst fear is realized. The idea that an "American poor man" has no standing to engage in this discussion, on any point, is pretty insulting to American poor men; who are fair game for any and all criticism in all public and private forums."

Too many Americans are fired and laid off from their jobs, and on the way home from that dreadful experience, have to run through the radio dial to listen to a radio shouter mansplain that it is their fault and get off your ass, freshly kicked from productive labor, and get a job, you parasite.

Then Paul Ryan and company, like some sort of reptilian Lucy from inside their roadside advice booth, tells you you're living a little high on the hog, there, buster, and we're moving you down the hog to where the sun don't shine because they read it in a dime-store, five-pound, bodice ripping novel by an insane, but horny (she had her good points, too) Russian woman.

It's these kinds of situations, societal self-defense, for which at least one of the commas in the Second Amendment, was made.

Fine, let's debate. Part of equality is being called out, as an equal, when you are wrong.

Very true.

To sort of follow on bobbyp and the count's last few comments, I guess what I notice is that pretty much all of us belong to some demographic category or other that could use some calling out.

Anybody here think they're exempt?

Anybody here think that folks who more or less speak for them, or articulate their point of view, aren't making their agenda part of the national debate?

Anybody here think that they aren't, in one way or another, beholden to the rest of us for some kind of help and support?

I actually do think that the experience of people of African descent in this country is unique, and uniquely harrowing, as compared to that of pretty much anyone else.

The possible exception would be American Indians.

Other than them, I really can't think of anyone whose history here compares with that of people whose origins are in Africa.

But all of that said, one point on which black Americans are absolutely not unique is in seeking to have their interests championed in the public arena.

Another would be in objecting to being subject to characterization, positively or negatively, as a monolithic entity.

A bit of synchronicity is this article.

Interesting article, lj.

It reminds me of the opposite behavior of Jewish immigrant vaudeville comedians changing their names to achieve acceptance.

Or, the assignment of Presidential names .... Washington, Jefferson, Monroe .... to entire black families.

I wouldn't hire Reince Priebus, but not because of his funny name, which sounds like a guy who majored in white studies.

Because this, an article at the bottom of lj's link:

http://theallegiant.com/recent-polls-suggest-calling-someone-a-republican-is-an-insult/

There needs to be some new branding among these folks, and Tea Party victim ain't in the right direction.

New Coke has already been tried.

Maybe ... The Rosa Parks Southern Strategic Clown Posse.

Nah.

It's very simple, as Newt Gingrich prefaces every utterance projectile vomited out of his mouth .....

Newt?

Hire that guy so I can make fun of his name in board meetings.

What say you ... Newt? What's your next bright idea ... Newton?

The possible exception would be American Indians.

That reminds me of one of my coworkers in our small company in the 48th soviet of Washington. This guy is virtually unlettered, hard working, a carpenter in a merit shop who still keeps his union card. He is an avid outdoorsman, hunting bears with bow and arrow, fishing on Puget Sound for salmon and halibut. He has a very heightened sense of right and wrong, and he does not hesitate to verbalize his feelings in this regard, the setting be damned. I have never discussed politics with him, and at times he comes across as a UAW shop foreman when it comes to worker-employer relations. As his manager, I have come to appreciate and respect both his sense of fair play and his work ethic.

But he has a real problem with Native Americans and their treaty fishing rights. He repeatedly expresses his anger and deep resentment (sometimes in rather awkward settings) about the injustice of their allotment of the salmon harvest, and the constraining regulations to which he, a sportsman, has to adhere to (but those damned Indians don't). He rails against their use of gill nets and his anecdotal observations of Native American apparent careless disregard for the fact that the number of salmon are decreasing. He is pissed that sportsmen can't get what he feels are their "fair share".

Finally, in a private moment, I pointed out to him (gently I might add) that we whites had taken virtually everything from them, their land, their culture, their ability to make a living, their self respect. Everything. He was pretty much unfazed. To him, it's all about fairness going forward. The weight of past injustice and its effects meant nothing. The centuries of accumulated and compound advantages of being a white American are beyond his comprehension.

it's as if history had never happened.

But that's how we got here.

A bit of synchronicity is this article.

In my town, I know a Fraffie, a Ducky, and a Perky. Pitch, Esso, and I'm sure there's a Biff around somewhere.

Mostly nicknames, but these people do business using these monikers.

Seriously, what's wrong with "Eddie" or "Sue" or "Sam"?

Nobody has weirder names than old-school WASPs.

it's as if history had never happened.

"I didn't lynch anybody / kill any Indians / own any slaves / etc. Why is it my responsibility to deal with the consequences?"

It's not an unreasonable question.

I guess my reply, FWIW, is that you live in a world where those consequences exist.

You can say, hey, it's not my fault, I didn't create the situation, but then it just falls to somebody else to deal with it.

Or, more likely, nobody deals with it, because there's likely no specific individual who "created the situation". Or, there is, but that guy's dead and gone. Or, there is, but there is no way in hell that that individual(s) is going to step up.

You find a mess, you try to clean it up.

Sometimes you can't, but sometimes you can. At least a part of it.

My daily comment, then back at it.

To sort of follow on bobbyp and the count's last few comments, I guess what I notice is that pretty much all of us belong to some demographic category or other that could use some calling out.

Anybody here think they're exempt?

He was pretty much unfazed. To him, it's all about fairness going forward. The weight of past injustice and its effects meant nothing. The centuries of accumulated and compound advantages of being a white American are beyond his comprehension.

I picked these two because they are representative of the underpinning of so much of liberal/progressive thinking. First, we are all part of one group or another, usually based on some kind of outward marker, rather than our personal views, beliefs, etc. Second, each group has certain rights, obligations, etc to other groups based on various historical, social, economic or other factors.

To answer Russell's question, and perhaps to inferentially touch on BP's issues with the uber wealthy, the only demographic I identify with is that of the beleaguered taxpayer, which I am pretty sure is otherwise color blind, indifferent to political or social views and open to GBLT's as well as heterosexuals.

I am on board with BP's carpenter. He doesn't get why Group A, regardless of the past, gets a special deal *by law* at the expense of Group B (which is typically defined as 'everyone else not in Group A'). BP respects his friend's moral compass, and his friends view's on labor/management (BP is in "management"!!!! I knew it!!!!!) and, inferentially, his work ethic. But, to BP, the past is a debt the future carries, and if that means dividing our country into social creditors and debtors, that is what must be done.

I don't agree with BP on any of this. We have essentially two philosophical camps: equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. The former determines who gets what with minimal regard of individual inputs, the latter envisions a theoretical (yes, I am getting to the *reality of it* part) roughly level playing field in which individual effort determines outcomes, but in which the law and social custom work to ensure that no one is held back by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. That's the 'equality of opportunity' theory.

The playing isn't level. The African-American child of a 16 year old, single high school drop out does not have the same shot at life as our two kids did. I know that. Arbitrarily admitting that child into Harvard isn't a fix either--we are just setting her/him up for failure.

It's also a fact that a kid who grew up in the home I did does not have nearly the same advantage as my children.

Group rights morph rapidly into group entitlements--entitlements at others' expense. Leaving aside that it cuts aginst the core of the American "equality under the law" premise that the vast majority of us sign on to, group rights/entitlements produce real, lasting resentment. They are widely perceived as unfair. Damn few people people feel like some other group of people are owed a debt because of what happened 50 or 150 or 400 years ago. And they especially don't like it when debts are imposed because of skin pigmentation or reproductive plumbing.

For these reasons, even though the playing field is far from level, establishing permanent classes with varying rights and obligations is worse than working over time to address the playing field issue. I get the temptation to jump start a more level playing field by establishing preferences, but like every other damn gov't thing, once they are in place, they are hell to remove. But for the 14th Amendment, preferences would be the law of the land.

Now, changing over to the uber rich: they aren't any different from a lot of other people. It's a hard fact: money makes a lot of people stupid. I don't know why this is, but having or getting a bunch of money addles the mind. Not for everyone, but for quite a few people.

In my current iteration, I pay people and businesses, but mostly people, lump sums of cash, usually in the hundreds of thousands, but in the millions fairly often. I've been doing that for 33 years. Up until a year ago, I also represented people for whom I was trying to get hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. My experience in observing people who get a lot of money is not anecdotal; it is universal: 90% or more of the people who get a big pile of money burn through it in 2 years or less.

The uber, usually "new rich", have enough money to where it takes them longer to spend it all or they can't spend it all, because there is so much of it. They spend publicly because they love the attention. It's an illness perhaps. I can't imagine they find any real satisfaction in life. I damn sure don't envy them.

The one thing about them, though, that really pisses me off is the resentment they engender in others which turns into a general justification for taxing the crap out of those of us who, finally, after decades of ass-busting are making a pretty damn good living.

We have essentially two philosophical camps: equality of outcome and equality of opportunity.

What I would suggest is that this characterization of what separates the "two camps" doesn't really capture the difference.

I don't think I know a single person, of any persuasion whatsoever, whether political, social, religious, or what have you, whose goal is "equality of outcome".

Mine isn't.

I'm also not particularly interested in "making up for" wrongs done in the past. As mentioned upthread, I see that as an exercise in folly. You can't change the past, and the enormity of what you'd be trying to "make up for" is too large.

I'm interested in, minimally, recognizing that "the past" persists, in about a million different ways, and less minimally I'm interested in addressing the ways in which "the past" affects us here and now, today.

If we can. Sometimes we can't.

I put "the past" in scare quotes because a lot of the crap that is placed in "the past" is still around.

And I put "the past" in quotes because, even when actually gone by, "the past" is often not that long ago. It's recent enough that real, live people lived through it and remember it, not as a history lesson, but as part of their own lives.

I appreciate that you pay a lot of taxes, and I appreciate that that sucks. But, to speak purely personally, state-mandated transfers from one group to another group has almost nothing to do with what I'm on about when the issue of race, or poverty, or pretty much any kind of differential treatment of people comes up.

If these issues could be solved by handing money out, we'd have been done with them long, long, long ago.

McK has written a lengthy and thoughtful comment, with most of which I'm not sufficiently awake (or caffeinated) to engage, except to thank him for his effort in explicating his views. I would like to pick up on one phrase, however:

the only demographic I identify with is that of the beleaguered taxpayer,

That may well be so, but I would imagine that the rest of the world sees him - as it sees me - as white, male, educated, and relatively affluent. Which gives him/me an advantage in dealing with the rest of the world: a modicum of respect, a reduced likelihood of people simply ignoring us or trampling overtly on our rights, a greater chance that we'll be listened to (if not agreed with) in public fora, etc. That's our "privilege," and we can disclaim it all we like - "I never asked for that, I don't identify with that" - but it doesn't go away, except by extreme measures: giving away all our worldly possessions (a la Francis of Assissi), dyeing our skin black (a la John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me). Griffin is in fact a good touchpoint, and was very influential to me half a century ago; by "becoming" a Negro in the South (temporarily) he rapidly discovered how differently the world looked to him - and upon him.

So while I appreciate the fact that McK makes no effort to assert his (white, male, educated, affluent) superiority, I hope he understands - as I try to - that it is still evident to others, and affects how the world treats him/us, and others who do not share his/our privilege.

live in the Soviet of Washington, and I've had that conversation, too.

But sometimes it is convenient to ignore context.

Nobody wants to be blamed now for crimes committed by an earlier generation. Discussing the past can feel like that. On the other hand, dismissing the past as if it had no current relevance can be more than just ignorance or defensiveness; it's a handy way to rationalize current continuations of past behavior.

Imaginary conversation:

Bill: Don't blame me for slavery and Jim Crow! I wasn't even alive then! You need to get your act together now!

Joe: But we are not all in the same boat now. It isn't blaming you to discuss current deck-stacking unless you are involved in the current deck-stacking.

Bill: If you work hard and go to school and don't do anything stupid, you will thrive.

Joe: You probably will not thrive, regardless of your choices, unless you get a head start by being born into a well-off family. Nowadays hard work and good choices will leave you working two jobs for the minimum wage while the Food Stamps you need for survival get cut. You will lose your access to low cost birth control to attacks on Planned Parenthood, be unable to get affordable loans for college, and find out on election day that you can't vote because you can't afford a car and don't have a driver's license. Plus, you will have untreated health conditions because you can't afford insurance. So don't lecture me on how "you people" should behave.

Bill: Don't call me a racist! I have an ideology that prevents me from supporting anything that would provide you with access to the middle class, so it's all your fault if you aren't as well off as I am. I worked my way up and you can, too!

Joe: You would be in a better position to lecture me on self-help if you weren't aligned with the party that deliberately seeks to dismantle all of the rungs in the ladder. Of course that dismantling makes it harder to anyone, regardless of ethnicity. to climb, so the motive for the dismantling isn't necessarily race. However it affects AA's more than whites because, due to historical racism, more of them are starting out lower.
Bill: You are blaming me again for what I did not so. Why should my taxes go to support services I don't need and create opportunities I don't need? You are an American just like me and you shouldn't be making race an issue. You should just be like me and stop whining about the past.

And so on.

There's another factor here that affects everyone at the bottom of the ladder regardless of ethnicity: hope or the lack thereof. The more the deck is stacked against people, the fewer of them who will make good choices in the hope of a better future. Why should they make good choices when those choices probably will not in reality lead to anything but drudgery and poverty?

I see this all over the county where I live. The children of lower middle class whites graduate from high school, start out with the intention of making something of themselves and gradually drift into drugs, the black market economy, and a hand to mouth existence. Why? Because that's what's available. The alternative--go to school, get a good paying job, get married, have a house, have kids--mostly isn't.

And the situation for the offspring of Spanish and Nahuatl-speaking immigrants is worse.

In a way race is a digression since the Randian/Social Darwinist/I've got mine philosophy screws nearly everybody.

On the other hand racism is still a current factor in the lives of the target ethnicities: veiled appeals to racism are a handy way to get people competing with each other for scraps so they don't notice who is hogging the cake. And denying the current affects of racism is a way of denying it's usefulness as a divide and conquer technique.

I should mention, perhaps, that I also have another point of privilege which McK may well lack. I am of above-average size (6'0" tall, 205 lbs or so), which both from personal experience and from a few studies I have read about (*) means I am even more likely not to be ignored or slighted than those of average size or below. Add to this a naturally big voice (even when I'm not shouting, I tend to be loud, as my wife of 43 [almost 44] years reminds me) and Attention Must Be Paid. When trying to right a grievance or get someone's attention, this all helps, whether I'm consciously using it or not. Not everyone has this edge; they need other tactics to get some of what comes to me automatically.

(*) The studies, long forgotten in detail, indicated that taller people [men?] are generally more likely to be believed, and considered suitable leaders, than shorter. As a tiny data point, for about a century (? - at least through the 1960s) the taller presidential candidate always beat the shorter one!

This article on housing segregation is germane to the discussion:
http://www.propublica.org/article/living-apart-how-the-government-betrayed-a-landmark-civil-rights-law

That may well be so, but I would imagine that the rest of the world sees him - as it sees me - as white, male, educated, and relatively affluent. Which gives him/me an advantage in dealing with the rest of the world: a modicum of respect, a reduced likelihood of people simply ignoring us or trampling overtly on our rights, a greater chance that we'll be listened to (if not agreed with) in public fora, etc. That's our "privilege," and we can disclaim it all we like - "I never asked for that, I don't identify with that"

Damn it, Doc, I have work to do.

I am white, so yes, that is how I would be seen by anyone. A person would have to know that I am an attorney to infer my education level. A person would have to see our home to infer any level of affluence (and our place isn't that big of a deal, a nice townhouse, nothing fancy)--and it is highly unlikely that any person who doesn't know me professionally or socially would be able to draw any inferences in that regard.

I've never won an argument or gotten a better seat in a restaurant because I'm white or because I drive a nice car (Is a nine year old, formerly nice SUV that's hauled a lot of trailers, has its share of dings and has been off road quite a bit a "nice car"?). On those occasions where I am speaking publicly, there is someone just like me taking the opposite side. If the jury agrees with me, it's because the law and the evidence favored my client's side of the case.

I disagree that I have those privileges to any meaningful or even noticeable degree. If they exist at all, they exist only at certain times and in certain places and are of minimal influence.

Skin color is germane, negatively, in that young men of color are more likely to draw police attention than young white men, but I also think it is a matter of degree and not kind. It is wrong. It is a part of the playing field that requires a lot of work.

I do have a bit of earned privilege, as a result of 30 plus years practicing law in Houston. Judges know me and I'm fairly well known among other trial lawyers. That does matter a lot, personally and professionally. But it is not something that came just because I'm white and went to law school.

I would also recommend this*:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/a-rising-tide-lifts-all-yachts/276880/

*on a blog where you do indeed find really useful discussions happening, sometimes.

I disagree that I have those privileges to any meaningful or even noticeable degree. If they exist at all, they exist only at certain times and in certain places and are of minimal influence...

From the last link I just posted...

"..Among children born from 1955 through 1970, only 4 percent of whites were raised in neighborhoods with at least 20 percent poverty, compared to 62 percent of blacks. Three out of four white children were raised in neighborhoods with less than 10 percent poverty, compared to just 9 percent of blacks. Even more astonishingly, essentially no white children were raised in neighborhoods with at least 30 percent poverty, but three in ten blacks were..."

Anecdote may say the playing field is level, but the statistics (and history) don't support the assertion.

Approximately once annually, I trot out links to historical income tax bracket tables for the U.S. and other countries with similar economies in a pointless attempt to understand how the beleaguered taxpayer seems to remain steadfastly and ABSOLUTELY beleaguered regardless of the relative marginal tax rates as they fluctuate.

In other words, the kvetch side of the ratio remains steady at 100% full-throttle noise, while the other side of the equation, Federal tax rates, have fluctuated between a few percent in the early days to over 90% for years during the height of our country's growth vibrancy and everywhere in between.

It must be that time of year.

McKT stated:

"To answer Russell's question, and perhaps to inferentially touch on BP's issues with the uber wealthy, the only demographic I identify with is that of the beleaguered taxpayer"

First off, thank you MCTX, for your hard work in an important endeavor, and thank you for paying your taxes at whatever rate minus deductions has occurred.

You are a better man than I in all these respects, despite my ability to consume more duck liver pate than you.

Also, thank you for not following in Ronald Reagan's footsteps and quitting your movie career (he said this, or he read it off a scrap of paper he found in an old pair of pants, or he made it up (lied) based on a movie he had seen) because of onerous taxes.

Bonzo's grandkids appreciate you. ;)

First, this link on the history of tax bracket rates:

http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2013-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets

Another similar cite:

http://www.verisi.com/resources/us-marginal-tax-rates.htm

Some on U.S. tax rates compared to other countries:

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/tax-rates-u-highest-world-183946787.html

I guess my question is as always: What is the state of your beleagueredness now, ..... I realize you will have to use your imagination because you are at peak earnings level, I expect, compared to other times ... compared to when high marginal rates were 70%, or 91% in the 1950s, or where ever they were during World War II, or during the 1920s under the Mellon regime, which isn't that much below where they are now?

Given the real world of taxes, and given tax rates in other countries, which are higher in many cases, what am I to make of this steady state beleagueredness?

I ask these questions in the context of having been .... puzzled .... only once by Hilzoy, when she wrote in a post regarding taxes, that she too HATED paying taxes, and in the context of my hatred for paying for food, which I am forced to do by the way, barring some preternatural off-the-grid self-sufficiency, and food cost brackets do NOTHING but rise over time, and in the context that I hate death much more than taxes, but I rarely hear complaints from anyone about the eternal marginal death of 100% for all of us.

In closing let me add that I hope MckT doesn't mind that I divulge that we found ourselves together in a restaurant one time and we were the only two middle-aged black women in the joint.

Since most of us don't really know who all of us really are, I like to keep folks guessing.


I am on board with BP's carpenter. He doesn't get why Group A, regardless of the past, gets a special deal *by law* at the expense of Group B (which is typically defined as 'everyone else not in Group A').

Then I would ask in reply, "Why do you in fact support the very things you so say you are so forcefully against?"

Why is Micky Mouse not now in the public domain?
Why is the fee income of hedge fund managers taxed at capital gains rates?
Why do we have agriculture subsidies for relatively well off farmers?
Why have we not reformed our patent system especially with respect to medical drugs?
Why do we pay twice as much for health care in this country as opposed to other OECD countries?
Why does the FIRE sector grab a huge percentage of our national income?
Why do we continue to provide rich Wall Street bankers the public subsidy of virtually free money so they can engage in interest rate arbitrage or gamble on the stock and commodity markets?
Why have taxes for the wealthy constantly trended downward since the Kennedy administration?
Why are doctors, lawyers, accountants, and news pundits not exposed to international competition the same way that welders or auto plant workers are?
Why is our tax law chock full of special favors to well connected interests?
Why, despite ongoing gains in productivity, are real wages flat or declining?
Why is there not a job for every adult who wants one?
why has wealth and income been relentlessly shifted upward since the 80's?

The answers to all of these questions are intimately related to the public policies we have chosen, policies that in fact work to favor certain groups at the expense of others.

So when somebody tells me they support equality of opportunity yet support public policies that promote the outcomes set forth above, I can only wonder, who are they trying to fool?

As for the beleaguered taxpayer: Has it not struck you that if real wages had kept pace with productivity these last 30+ years that we taxpayers could indeed afford to pay for a lot more good public stuff? Ask not why taxes are so high, ask instead, "Why are incomes so low?"

Thanks for the excellent link, Nigel. I would urge McKinney to take a few moments to read it and comment.

"May your income tax bill be twice as big next year!"

That probably sounds like a curse to some people, like the hard-working McKinney. Interpreted correctly, of course, it is practically a blessing: may your income roughly double next year.

McKinney might well point out that The Government has it in its power to double his tax bill whether or not The Market awards him twice the income. He will probably ignore the fact that The Market has it in ITS power to CUT his income in HALF next year, in which case The Government will obligingly HALVE his income tax bill.

Since I cannot speak for McKinney, let me talk about myself: I am a price-taker in The Market. I cannot make my own price for my time, effort, or skill. So I live at the whim of The Market. My income can fluctuate, and HAS fluctuated, year to year, without my abilities, work ethic, or even skin color changing at all. There have been years when my income tax bill was extremely small, others when it was extremely large. You can guess in which years I have felt economically content. You can guess in which years I wished I had a bigger tax bill. You can guess that about me. I would not dare guess whether McKinney would feel the same way.

--TP


McK: By now we're down to quibbles and details, which you may safely ignore without fear of internet retribution (E.g., "Aha! The fact that you didn't answer my question gives me victory! VICTORY!!")

You suggest no one would guess your education without knowing you were a lawyer or your affluence without seeing your house. At one level - among middle-class (or above) white American males - this may be true of you, as of me.

But I was attempting to envisage wider judgments, not just observing our standing among our "peers." By comparison with many in society, I surmise, your education (broadly speaking) could readily be guessed at by your speech, even among those who don't know you're a lawyer. You probably don't sound like you're from the "'hood," the barrio, the trailer park, or the rural boondocks, in terms of accent, vocabulary, or sentence construction, so you're not likely to be perceived as "uneducated."

Similarly, you can, and at times probably do, dress in ways that suggest that you're not poor (I'm guessing you wear a nice suit in the courtroom, although I assume that you, like me, at other times "dress down" in jeans or shorts or sweats). And the fact that you own a working vehicle - even one nine years old (same age as mine!) - implies that you're not homeless or destitute. "Affluence" in this sense is relative, and I was using it in its lowest sense: Not Visibly Poor.

None of this gets you to the front of the line, and I never meant to suggest that you (or I) get better seats in restaurants or win arguments because of this "privilege." But it probably keeps you from being shunted to the back of the line, or ignored entirely, as happens to some Americans who are NOT white, educated, and of at least moderate wealth. (Let's not get into the question of "male privilege" for the moment.)

You disagree that you "have those privileges to any meaningful or even noticeable degree." The fact that you don't notice anything may itself be a sign of privilege. I suspect that from the bottom of the social pyramid things look rather different.

I appreciate that you - particularly as a lawyer, perhaps? - are apprehensive about the use of laws to correct whatever injustices may accrue from such privilege, or the lack thereof. I'm not arguing (here) for such laws. What I am saying is that there's a problem, and the first step to solving it, whether through specific laws or by some other means, is acknowledging it.

"I didn't lynch anybody / kill any Indians / own any slaves / etc. Why is it my responsibility to deal with the consequences?"

It's not an unreasonable question.

Response: Well, OK, but I'm not so sure. If you did not in fact benefit from those consequences, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But you did, and you do. You are like the great grandchild of a bank robber who was never caught, and whose descendants have invested the loot wisely.

"But I never robbed banks", you declaim.
"That's not exactly the point," I reply.

Response: Well, OK, but I'm not so sure. If you did not in fact benefit from those consequences, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But you did, and you do. You are like the great grandchild of a bank robber who was never caught, and whose descendants have invested the loot wisely.

A lot of people, including some of the victims' descendants, have arguably "benefitted" from horrors of the past. I honestly don't think that our duty to make the current world better is based on a debt that some of us owe to others based on the fact that our forebears were Visigoths or Mongols or Spanish conquistadors or American homesteaders or Southern plantation owners. It's important to know all of those things, but not because we can draw direct lines of benefit and detriment.

Our duty to make the world better is because we live here and now, and this is our opportunity to do it with whatever power, influence and skills we happen to have.

I think Sapient has made the most significant point. The reason to support the use of power (and money is power)to make opportunity available to ordinary people and to keep the safety net intact is because it's the right thing to do, not because of guilt over what one's ancestors did, or because one is benefitting now by what one's ancestors did.

Also if that argument is made--that it's the right thing to do--then the people who don't want to do the right thing have to come right out and say so, instead of digressing into a discussion about whether or not they are benefitting from history.

Also if that argument is made--that it's the right thing to do--then the people who don't want to do the right thing have to come right out and say so...

Well, they in fact do. Declaiming "the beatings have stopped" is indeed necessary, but it is, as you point out, no sufficient. They will always throw their resentment in your face because you propose to take something from them and give it to THEM.

And there you are.

I'm not so much into guilt any longer, except on a personal level, and I try to do the right thing, again on a personal level and in a very small circle.

But, related to the tax tables presented above, and given the iron rules of tax-originated incentive and disincentive hammered into the national discourse over the past umpteen years, one would expect from a progressive tax system (which is much less so these-a-days) a much more churned distribution of wealth (as the ocean circulates warm and cold water from bottom to top and vice versa) as those at the top respond to the grievous and onerous marginal tax rates of 40-plus rates with an ah-the-hell-with-it stay in bed Galtian withholding of productivity and those at the bottom, Romney's 51% that pay NO taxes, respond by getting up early for unshackled innovation and unlimited wealth accumulation, but the opposite seems to be happening as wealth disparities go off the historical charts.

The more those at the top (I don't count anyone here at the topppermost of the poppermost, unless its the mysterious dr. ngo in his island silo vault with the 12 reading/bath rooms) have, not that there is anything wrong with that, the more they work and accumulate, even when a few of them do so through useless, non-productive activity, like high-frequency trading, which someone might point out is or could be a behavior altered by tax legislation.

Quit? Heck, no. Instead, up the frequency!

I observe NO disincentives at the top, nor incentives the rest of the way down, from the tax regime.

Everyone I know, top folks and bottom folks, work their butts off, and if they don't, it's because of family responsibilities, at which they work their butts off for nuttin monetary.

I fully expect now a deluge of examples of exactly the behavior I deny observing -- both from those of you who are former millionaires, now dissolute, unshaven and hitting the bottle (wine doesn't count, MckT), because of last year's modest rise in taxes during the budget deal, and from those of you firmly ensconced at the bottom after having glanced at the higher marginal taxes and scuttled all economic/work dreams on account of what's the use, they'll just take it from me to hand it to someone else.

Might be time to move on, but I'd just note that every major religion has some notion of required giving to help others and that giving is not necessarily limited to believers, Christian tithing, Islam has it as one of the 5 pillars, Hinduism calls their 10 percent dashama bhaga vrata (the Sanskrit is almost readable as English 'ten part vow') and Buddhists have a general notion of donating as a way to reduce personal posessions and therefore personal greed.

Maybe it is just a ploy to bring in the non-believers, but given that all these are woven into the fabric of our system of beliefs, it makes sense that the government take these over when you have multiple systems of belief. Seems like the conservative thing to do.

And then there's the NFL:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/how-the-nfl-fleeces-taxpayers/309448/

Our duty to make the world better is because we live here and now, and this is our opportunity to do it with whatever power, influence and skills we happen to have.

What sapient said.

My sense, possibly wrong, is that differences in point of view on this stuff has less to do with thoughts about equality of outcome vs equality of opportunity, and more to do with the degree to which the word "duty" in sapient's comment here resonates with you or not.

If I have my facts right, Dr. Moynihan, the two big eras where the economic disparity between black and white Americans was substantially reduced was during periods of (1.) tight labor markets (WWII) or (2.) political/institutional reform, aka the tune in, drop out, and turn on 1960's.

For those of you squeamish about the echos of our history and the facts on the ground regarding racial discrimination, please work to promote door no. 1.

Door no. 2 is open in many important respects, but remains closed in others. Opening those doors is important.

It's your future. Proceed.

Nigel, I acknowledged that the playing field is not level. I read the Salon article. Can someone tell me what " neighborhoods with at least 20 percent poverty" means? I like to know what we are or are not talking about when someone is making a statistical point.

He will probably ignore the fact that The Market has it in ITS power to CUT his income in HALF next year, in which case The Government will obligingly HALVE his income tax bill.

I would say the *economy* in general has the power to impact my income, the market not so much. TP is in the securities market by choice. He's probably good at it. If the choice is paying at a marginal rate of 40% vs 15% because of income level--and the labor, risk etc inputs are the same--of course, you'd rather make 400K than 60K. My marginal rate is 45% all up--I don't like it. I'm saving for retirement. Every penny the feds get is one less we have to live on.

The answers to all of these questions are intimately related to the public policies we have chosen, policies that in fact work to favor certain groups at the expense of others.

I am not a fan of deck-stacking in pretty much any context. We can argue about which particular policy is unfairly preferential (how would you reform patent law and still promote research and development of new drugs, for example?). I don't love pharma, but I like the muscle relaxer I took this morning because my back was killing me. I think capital gains treatment for capital assets makes sense. For securities, I would change the holding period to 3 years, but I still think preferential treatment makes sense--everyone who buys a security gets the same preference.

Our duty to make the world better is because we live here and now,

I am sensing many devils in these details.

Ask not why taxes are so high, ask instead, "Why are incomes so low?"

I am told by people who understand big picture finance/corporate operations that this will persist as long as we are in recession, or if not recession, stagnation, the reason being that there is no real competition for labor these days, except in very specialized areas or in areas where there is a lot of energy exploration.

In closing let me add that I hope MckT doesn't mind that I divulge that we found ourselves together in a restaurant one time and we were the only two middle-aged black women in the joint.

I don't mind the disclosure, but I had everyone going here that I am an old white male.

but given that all these are woven into the fabric of our system of beliefs, it makes sense that the government take these over when you have multiple systems of belief. Seems like the conservative thing to do.

My guess is that progressives don't like being told how to be progressive by conservatives. It is true that religions call for modest donations to the church/temple/whatever. They still do. Giving is voluntary, no one shows up with a writ of execution and levies on your assets if you fail to fork over. In the US, if you don't like the way your church or whatever spends its money, you can quit giving, quit attending or both. I could unpack this one foreever, but I'll just close out by saying, we really don't want gov't taking over the business of organized religion. It really doesn't make sense.

My marginal rate is 45% all up

Are you talking on your last dollar, or on your whole income?

Your point is valid either way, I'm just curious.

I am told by people who understand big picture finance/corporate operations that this will persist as long as we are in recession

McK, check out the inflation adjusted real income numbers here.

The time range shown here is not quite fifty years. Boom years, recession years, stagflation years, what have you. All found in that time period.

Top quintile is up about 50%. Next quintile is up 20%. Everybody else is flat or slightly negative.

US GDP in constant dollars is almost four times what it was in 1967.

"The recession" does not explain this.

we really don't want gov't taking over the business of organized religion.

And all the people said "amen".

we really don't want gov't taking over the business of organized religion. It really doesn't make sense.

I didn't mean to say it should. I wanted to suggest that the impulse to provide for those less well off than the average is built into human religion, which may be seen as a blueprint for how humans should try and relate to each other. While there are people, like say Richard Dawkins, who feel that any belief in God is problematic, I have yet to see them railing against the Golden Rule. You seem to be against any effort to distribute wealth in any way. You seem to want to suggest that it is progressive's fault that there is an urge to redistribute, bmy point is that in that conservative touchstone, religion, it certainly exists without the work of patchouli smelling Birkenstock clad hippies.

This paragraph from russell on another thread somehow seems to me to belong here, too.

I can't believe this is the same country I grew up in. My parent's generation survived the Depression, won WWII, put in place Social Security Medicare Medicaid, built the national highway system, built libraries public schools and public hospitals, rose to a variety of civil rights challenges, sent several folks to the moon, and sent me to an excellent public four-year university for about $3K a year, including housing and food.

If you believe that your tax dollars actually pay for stuff the government does, you probably should be pissed that you're paying as much as you are, since we don't seem to be doing as many particularly useful things these days.

Seeing things as I do, I don't see taxes that way, but I still wish for more productive spending, on things that would benefit everyone - the sorts of things we used to do a lot more of. The sorts of things that used to allow far more people to get into those higher income brackets, where they would have more money, even if they had to pay more in taxes.

I'd like to put this from the count in juxtaposition with the above quote from russell.

...even when a few of them do so through useless, non-productive activity, like high-frequency trading, which someone might point out is or could be a behavior altered by tax legislation.

Quit? Heck, no. Instead, up the frequency!

I observe NO disincentives at the top, nor incentives the rest of the way down, from the tax regime.

Wouldn't it be nice, Brian Wilson, if we could implement an above-board governmentally administered tax to eliminate the sneaky taxes high-frequency traders suck out of all of us invisibly (handedly)?

Imagine, John Lennon, the taxes on high-frequency trades being used to pay for infrastructure or education or preventive health care (if that's how you think taxes work)?

You seem to be against any effort to distribute wealth in any way. You seem to want to suggest that it is progressive's fault that there is an urge to redistribute, bmy point is that in that conservative touchstone, religion, it certainly exists without the work of patchouli smelling Birkenstock clad hippies.

I am not a big fan taking from one person and giving to another without a really good reason. My general definition of a "really good reason" is that a particular person is unable to provide for him or herself. I don't see spending on education or highways as redistributive. I view that as part of the goal of having a level playing field someday. SSN, in theory is not redistributive, Medicare and Medicaid are. Food stamps are. I accept the need for long term assistance for those who cannot provide for themselves and short term assistance for those who have lost their job and are actively seeking employment. I realize this is far too narrow for progressives.

Russell's lament, which resonates with me, speaks to a time where we did less for individuals and more for everyone: parks, libraries, etc. In those happy days of yore--and the left then found plenty to complain about--defense spending was over half the budget. Like Russell, I attended college and law school for peanuts. I do not understand where things went off in a ditch.

I do try to live the Golden Rule. In addition to paying a lot in taxes, I'm fairly confident my wife and I do our share, at least, in terms of trying to make a difference in others' lives.

Are you talking on your last dollar, or on your whole income?

Last. Our cut runs 32-35% of total--high enough.

Top quintile is up about 50%. Next quintile is up 20%. Everybody else is flat or slightly negative.

US GDP in constant dollars is almost four times what it was in 1967.

"The recession" does not explain this.

I think, post 2008 ,a lot of folks in the top 2 quintiles are treading water. Ok, cry me a river, they are still in the top two quintiles. If the economy ever heats up, incomes in those quintiles will go up because there will be competition among employers for the higher skilled, specialized employee.

The bottom three quintiles, and particularly the bottom two, could see long term recession, not just stagnation. Lack of skills and education will penalize these populations permanently.

If you want a long term problem to keep you awake at night, that is it: half or more of the country can't function in the modern economy and is relegated to service and support tasks. Pretty damn tragic. If there is a long term solution that doesn't kill off the upper quintiles, I'd like to hear it.

speaks to a time where we did less for individuals and more for everyone

That's a very interesting observation. I'm going to take that off and ponder it a while.

Our cut runs 32-35% of total--high enough.

Just want to acknowledge that that's a pretty hefty tax burden.

half or more of the country can't function in the modern economy and is relegated to service and support tasks.

I'm in complete agreement that that is the real sticking point in any discussion of political economy in this country.

I am, I suppose, a genuine leftist, or whatever passes for one in this country, but I'm not a particular fan of income redistribution as a good way to address poverty or other social ills.

This is a very, very, very rich country, and not that much of that wealth flows to, let's say, the bottom 2/3 or 3/4 of the population.

People often say that the federal deficit is "unsustainable", or the tax burden is "unsustainable".

Having the great majority of the population in a position somewhere between economic stagnation and free-fall, and dependent on public assistance to meet the basic requirements of life, is not sustainable.

Not because we "can't afford it", because we most likely can.

But because it's a crappy way for all of those people to live.

But because it's a crappy way for all of those people to live.

And, eventually, it becomes crappy for everyone else, too. You have to have an economy to financialize. The path we're on can't continue without killing the host.

but I'm not a particular fan of income redistribution as a good way to address poverty or other social ills.

If, as I have tried to point out at some length, we have witnessed income redistribution upward that is driven by public policy choices, then we have been subjected to income redistribution to help people who are, by any measure, already well off. Therefore, I shall not experience the slightest twinge of guilt or discomfort while advocating the revoking, revising, or otherwise changing these policies to "redistribute" income downward.

The vast concentration of wealth we witness today did not just "happen". It was not market ordained. It was not driven by technological change.

It was largely driven by consciously adopted political choices. Poor ones, I might add.

Can black america 'educate itself' out of poverty as McKinney suggests? History, logic, and common sense would argue not so much.

A degree helps, but is not an iron clad mass shield against the negative distributive effects of american white racism.

I have a nephew who has taken Haitian kids into his house and raised them from babies in a virtually all white rural community. The eldest was forced to get on the ground and "assume the position" by the high school campus gendarme because he was listening to his Ipod while black. The kid is angry. My brother-in-law says, yeah, the kid "has issues", but he should just "learn to live with it."

So black kids should just "deal with it" and whites can just go on about their merry way secure in the moral complacency that it's "not my fault".

I say [email protected] that.

If, as I have tried to point out at some length, we have witnessed income redistribution upward that is driven by public policy choices, then we have been subjected to income redistribution to help people who are, by any measure, already well off.

I agree with this completely.

I say I'm not a fan of income redistribution, because I'm not.

What I am a fan of is income DISTRIBUTION, up front, no remedial faux-charitable gestures required.

There are a very wide range of public policies that cause the existing distribution of wealth to be skewed upwards, to a degree that is extraordinary in any but the most kleptocratic nations.

IMO we don't need welfare. This is a rich, rich, rich country. I'd like to eliminate every redistributionist welfare program this country has.

What we need is for people who work for a living to be be paid well.

Hope that clarifies my position.

I think I've mentioned before my wish for a virtual alternate universe, with no actual people experiencing actual suffering, in which to test a $15/hr (or whatever number - $18/hr?) minimum wage. (Even if I had the power to try it in this universe, I'm not sure I'd have the courage, unintended consequences being what they are.)

My guess (including all that follows here) is that, phased in gradually over a number of years, there wouldn't be much downside. Implented fully on day one, there would be disruption, with some businesses not modeled for that being unable to adjust and going under. But, even in the latter case, in time, the higher wages would kick up demand such that any business worth its salt would be able to afford the new minimum wage. Profit margins would get squeezed some, but not problematically so. Same for increased inflation.

One concern would be outsourcing. We already can't compete with many other countries because of labor costs, right? Well, some jobs can't be outsourced. And how many jobs in the range between the current minimum wage and the new minimum wage are there that could be outsourced? How many actually would? At what point would the new minimum wage make enough of a marginal difference in the cost of a given worker for an employer to send that work out of the country? (I don't claim to know, which is why I'd love to be able to test it, harmlessly.)

In the real world, had I the power, I'd raise the minimum wage something like $0.75/hr each year and see how it goes. I'd keep going until I started seeing the first signs of problems, considering the cases made by various economists on the situation.

If our current congress, and politics in general, weren't so fncked, legislation to that general effect would probably be feasible. If...

Russell wrote:

"What I am a fan of is income DISTRIBUTION, up front, no remedial faux-charitable gestures required."

hairshirthedonist wrote:

"I'd keep going until I started seeing the first signs of problems, considering the cases made by various economists on the situation."

The first signs of trouble would emanate from these guys (see below), the big institutional investors who would counsel company boards to fire as many employees as possible as the first tranche of six bit minimum wage raises was about to go into effect.

Russell's would be met with Biblical verses of why this can't be done, and failing that, wage inflation hawks would be trotted out willy-nilly to point out that full employment at high wages would have a detrimental effect of yacht sales.

Of course, any threat to the bonuses of these guys is tantamount to a train ride to Auschwitz and/or (could be both) a reinstitution of the Confederate slave trade.

Just like defunding Obamacare is something Rosa Parks might do, because the back of the medical care bus can serve as an ambulance too.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/09/wall-street-tycoons-are-very-very-hurt-all-criticism-theyve-gotten

I'm here to report that Brian Wilson and John Lennon have been consulted (the first through repeatedly snapping of fingers to get his attention and the second through seance) and both favor hairshirt's tax remedy for swerving high frequency trading profits toward societal needs, not that any of that will ever happen, because .... liquidity ... don't you know.

Early on, because of some strange quasi-dyslexia from which I suffer, I used to pronounce to my myself hairshirthedonist as hairshirt the donist, like some sort of martyred orthodonist.


Hope that clarifies my position.

It does indeed. Thanks.

The first signs of trouble would emanate from these guys (see below), the big institutional investors

Screw them.

Eileen Fisher, owner and principal of a very popular and successful line of women's clothing:

I thought about going public, but it seemed way too complicated. I don't think about my business so much in quarters or in numbers that way. I think about getting the product right. If you do that, the money will follow. The ESOP is an extension of what I always wanted for my company: a sense of inclusivity. My employees run the business, and they deserve to own it. We've done profit sharing for years, and it makes people feel really connected. It's not us and them. It's us.

At Eileen Fisher (the company) something like 25% of profits go to the employees, each and every year.

If the company does well, everybody does well.

Last year they had a good year, and that worked out to about 11 weeks salary, as a bonus.

They're not a public company, so Ms. Fisher and her board can do whatever the hell they like with a bunch of Wall St jerks telling them the ROI is not big enough.

They have a great product that people like, the benefits are great for everyone who works there, everybody (including Ms Fisher) is making money.

That's the way it's done.

What we need is a change in the culture, and a change in the assumptions about the relationship of employees to the enterprises they work for.

Some people get it, some don't.

Companies that don't take on mountains of debt, that fund growth from their own revenue, that have reasonable expectations about how much and how fast they are going to grow, and that keep their focus on actually providing value to their customers, instead of to whatever anonymous crew of greedheads owns their paper, can do stuff like this.

It's not rocket science.

It's primarily a matter of what your assumptions are about the relationship of an enterprise to the people who actually do the stuff that your customers pay for.

Not complicated.

Sorry, this is totally off topic for the thread, it just pisses me off that this is seen as some weird mystery.

Gee, why doesn't anyone have any money? Why is everyone on food stamps?

Because the "investment class" has to extract their vig before anybody else gets paid.

That's why.

and, of course:

Ms. Fisher and her board can do whatever the hell they like *WITHOUT* a bunch of Wall St jerks telling them the ROI is not big enough.

Read before posting. Duh.

SSN, in theory is not redistributive, Medicare and Medicaid are. Food stamps are.

In fact SSN benefits are mildly tilted toward those whose working income is in the lower end of the spectrum. Disability payments are also distributed to many with little/no income history.

Medicare/Medicaide are largely financed by taxes on wage income. So, it's not "all" redistributionist. Anybody on Medicaide essentially has nothing in the way of financial assets, or they would not qualify for the program.

Food Stamps should be viewed as a subsidy for, you know, eating. Why this particular subsidy is worse than the many others we have is a mystery to me. If we starved all our poor, who would clean the toilets? Indeed, concentrating righteous conservative indignation on a $46billion/year program in a $13TRILLION/year economy strikes me as simply callous or laughable. Take your pick.

said it before, i'll say it again: i grew up in a poor family, on every kind of assistance there was. by whatever chance, i'm a successful programmer and have paid more in taxes than my mother, sisters and i ever got from the government.

what the taxpayers of the late 70's paid me turned out to be an excellent investment on their part. and i thank them for the startup capital.

and now i want to provide that same opportunity to someone else. and these government programs are a great way to do it.

I could see taking e.g. ag subsidies and having that be purely food-for-the-needy funding. Probably wouldn't be enough by itself, but it's not negligible.

Also, end every "energy"-related effort that incentivizes corn production for ethanol. It doesn't do what was intended, and has the non-salutory effect of driving food prices up not only here by worldwide, from what I have heard.

Just looking for places where bobbyp and I might not be in so violent a disagreement. There's some locus that fits that description, I think.

"If we starved all our poor, who would clean the toilets?"

If they don't clean the toilets, then they should starve, I think someone, yeah, this guy, said the other day:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/21/republican-congressman-tells-constituent-asking-about-food-stamp-cuts-let-him-not-eat/

To paraphrase the congressman "If anyone is not willing to clean toilets, they can eat sh*t, thereby cleaning the toilets while reducing overhead."

I believe the Congressman hired an American, or an illegal immigrant, to clean his toilet but the cleaner of toilets requested a .25 cent raise and directions to the Obamacare health exchange, so now the Congressman has outsourced the work (God's work, after all; a little work never hurt anyone, so do more of it until it hurts, at which point we'll set you free, which I believe was a slogan hung somewhere) so after each bowel movement the Congressman ships the fully loaded toilet (flushing sends the product of his fundament down a pipe which at some point leads to a Federal government sanitation regulation before rejoining the private sector water supply, and we can't have that .... Atlas Shrugged, Chapter 11, paragraph 3 thru 6026) to the cheapest labor sump at any one time in the world and its shipped back to him within 36 hours to start the Republican pollution all over again.

See, I once marveled at the Republican Party's uneasy truce between the God-fearing Jesus barkers, the conservative incentive/disincentive school of economics, and the Ayn Rand-fearing libertarian wing.

But I see how they manage it now. They work as a tag team: if you're not convinced by the Milton Friedman/Wall Street Journal economic reasoning behind starving the poor, off they hand you to the Bible thumper who steps into the ring proffering pithy starve-or-else fundamental Gospel, and if you don't buy that, in steps the hammer, the gun-wielding libertarian who mansplains those hunger pangs to you in 47 minute monologues lifted directly from John Galt punctuated by some slithery heavy breathing from Dagny Taggart.

Despite all of that, I agree that ethanol subsidies should be redirected though the "purely" in "food for the needy funding" leaves me feeling hungry for more, as in, I don't believe there should be a work requirement for receiving government medical insurance and care.

If we wanted purity in doling out the free necessities, we'd start with "if anyone is not willing to work, let him not breath" which I believe Ted Cruz was recruited into the Party to offer as sage advice if a fourth tag team member is needed.

Early on, because of some strange quasi-dyslexia from which I suffer, I used to pronounce to my myself hairshirthedonist as hairshirt the donist, like some sort of martyred orthodonist.

I wonder if it's too late to hyphenate (rhyming unintentionally). Eh, why bother? Mild confusion is more fun.

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